November is a fitting name for this little corner restaurant, which feels like it would be an ideal place to get cozy in that particular month. The interior is subdued yet comforting, much like the food. The menu consists of German food done simply, but in an updated and perhaps more delicate way. They had a bloodwurst dish with turnip purée, stewed apples, and thyme that sounded really good, but I shied away from it with the memory of my last experience still resonating in my heart. I decided to come full circle and order one of the first German things I ever ate here: dumplings in white sauce. That way I could compare the two to see how the exact same dish would be done in two different eras of German cooking. To remind you, here’s a picture of what I’m calling the “traditional version.”
And here’s the version I got at November:
I guess the first obvious difference is that November’s version has parsley on it (do I detect a few stray parsley pieces in the first? hard to say), and the second would be that the potatoes are more intact. Also the first didn’t have capers, a traditional element of the dish. By the way, I figured out after the first Rathaus version that this dish is called Königsberger Klopse. The meatballs in this old Königsberg specialty are made of a combination of beef, pork, veal, and—here’s the surprising part—anchovies or herring. They’re then boiled in salty water which is turned into a white sauce with flour, cream, capers, and more anchovies/herring. I was kind of mad at myself for not tasting any fish in either of these dishes. I knew the meatballs didn’t taste like any I had ever had before, but I couldn’t figure out on my own what was in them. I thought that their rather depressing color the first time I had them was an error of the cafeteria cooking, but I was wrong. Even at the lovely November, the gray color remained. Also, they honestly didn’t taste that different. The texture was much meatier than the suspiciously smooth interior of the ones at the Rathaus Neuköln, but the taste was largely the same. While the potatoes were much better, the most improved element was undoubtedly the white sauce. Like I mentioned in my last post, German tradition loves to over-sauce things, as you can see in the first picture. While the second one was also swimming in sauce, that’s kind of how the dish is supposed to be served. In this case the flavor and consistency of the sauce made it okay, while the first sauce was thick and gluey. The sauce here was thinner and much more like a broth, seeming to rely more on the flavor of the meat than an overabundance of flour or salt. Overall, it made the meal so much more pleasant to eat, though I admit I still wasn’t that into the meatballs.
However, I was clearly in the minority, as I realized looking around the room that almost everyone was eating the same thing. Of course, as I was yet again finding myself at lunch at around 4 pm, the restaurant was empty when I came in. Before long, it became filled with a lively bunch of people around the age of 60, all eating Königsberger Klopse. I’ve noticed that’s a bit of trend—when there’s a restaurant that has both specific regional dishes and more modern, gussied-up dishes, most people opt for the traditional food, and most people order the exact same thing. Like when I went to Anaveda, technically an Indian restaurant, and almost everyone was eating Schnitzel. I don’t think I can make any real conclusions yet about the average age of people eating at German restaurants in Berlin, especially because lately I keep going at this strange time and catching people eating early dinners. I don’t think it’s an incorrect stereotype that older people tend to eat earlier, and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons.
Anyways, while it was interesting comparing these two dishes, the experience of eating them wasn’t as different as I expected, in both taste and presentation. I suppose I felt somewhat healthier after eating at November, but just as full. This is making me lean towards the conclusion that “new German” isn’t all that different from “old German.” There are tweaks to correct the obvious, fixable issues, like parsley to give some color to the whiteness, or a thinner, more flavorful sauce, but the idea remains mainly the same. There are imported products replaced with local ones, and a stress on regional, seasonally inspired flavors, but the main ideas of comfort, satisfaction, and hominess still seem to remain.
Tel: +49 030 4428425
Mo-Fri from 10:00 am
Sat-Su from 9:00 am